Rocket Lab is now building customizable satellites


Small satellite launcher Rocket Lab is getting into the business of making satellites in addition to launching them. The company announced today that it is offering a new service to customers: a standard satellite that can be tailored to anyone’s low Earth orbit business needs. Such satellites are designed to launch to orbit on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, creating a streamlined mission to space.

Rocket Lab’s offering is a circular satellite called the Photon. Weighing in at about 374 pounds (170 kilograms), it comes equipped with propulsion, GPS, and more. The satellite design is derived from Rocket Lab’s kick stage — a cylindrical spacecraft that the company puts at the top of its rockets to give payloads an extra boost into orbit. So far, Rocket Lab has launched its kick stage four times, giving the company a good idea of how the Photon might behave in space.

The idea to turn the kick stage into a satellite seemed like a natural next step, says Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO. “It always seemed bizarre to me that you would have a [spacecraft] that has all the same components as the satellite literally six inches away from each other,” Beck tells The